Up to 60 new jobs could be created as part of the transformation of a former famine workhouse into a major cultural and commercial centre.
The Kilmacthomas Workhouse in Co Waterford is already home to 12 visual artists and designers in an environment aimed at supporting the establishment of small craft businesses and now Waterford County Enterprise Board has put together a masterplan for the listed building.
Those working in the workhouse live in the village of Kilmacthomas and have been welcomed and supported by the local community.
The new county enterprise board initiative is supported by local government and the Barry family who own the building.
They hope the proposed redevelopment will get local funding and government support to allow the €5m project to proceed.
The phased project proposes the redevelopment of the buildings to accommodate an expanded Workhouse Design Studios with working, exhibition and living space for up to 25 artists.
The core of the remembrance theme is the creation of a museum, a memorial garden and sculpture park.
An independent report suggests the workhouse proposals have the potential to employ between 40 and 60 people in a range of arts, cultural, commercial and support activities.
Arts and heritage minister Jimmy Deenihan unveiled the plans for the development of the workhouse building.
“Notwithstanding the passage of time, the workhouse as it stands today is an impressive and formidable structure and provides us with a tangible and vivid link with our past,” he said.
“I have no doubt that once the project comes to fruition, Kilmacthomas workhouse will be a standout facility not only in the Waterford and south-east artistic scene, but also on the Irish artistic scene.”
The building is already home to Workhouse Studios, just off the N25, which takes an average of 10,000 vehicles past the studios daily.
Creative director Claire McAlister said the 12 businesses currently working from the Workhouse Studios have grown in the challenging economic climate and difficult working conditions.
“The trend among our creative businesses at Workhouse Studios is one that sees them trading internationally within one year in business — something completely unheard of within the creative industries. Despite the cold, damp environment of the workhouse, our members are producing incredibly intricate and finely crafted collections of jewellery, ceramics, accessories and more,” she said.
Waterford county manager Denis McCarthy said a co-operative approach between communities, private businesses and the agencies in progressing such projects is imperative.
“There are over 20,000 community groups in Ireland. If each of these delivered one additional job, it would equal the effort of IDA and Enterprise Ireland.”
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